Native River might not have won the Betfair Chase last Saturday, and in fact was beaten by a better horse on the day, but all roads lead to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and this was a very positive start to the season.
There has been lots of talk about how stiff the fences were, and I was certainly pleased to be on board such a good jumper. It proved too much for Might Bite. I think they will need to look at the Haydock fences before the next meeting, they took a lot of jumping on good ground and will be just too big for jumping on heavy ground through the winter.
Colin Tizzard plans to go to the King George next with Native River, before Newbury in February then back to Cheltenham. Native River stays and jumps and I don’t see any reason he can’t go really well in the King George despite the race having a reputation as being for speedier types.
I’ve not ridden any winners for three days which has been pretty frustrating, but I’ve got some very nice horses to look forward to over the next couple of days at Newbury.
La Bague au Roi runs for the second time over fences at Newbury on Friday afternoon. We were really pleased with her first chase win and everything looks to be in her favour for this race. The drop back in trip isn’t a concern as she has plenty of pace, and her jumping was very good last time. The field of four are all good horses and this race has a record of throwing up future stars, Bobs Worth and Coneygree are past winners, but we’ve already beaten two of these and I’m really looking forward to riding her again. She carries no penalty for the win because this is a Grade 2.
On Saturday Thomas Patrick is my big hope for the Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly the Hennessy. I’ve always really liked this horse and I schooled him earlier this week. He looks great, and his close second at Sandown was the perfect preparation as he ran really well without picking up a penalty for a win. This puts him 5lb better off with Elegant Escape who beat him that day.
The weather has been in our favour too, the softer the ground, the better. He has the right profile for the race, he’s a second season chaser who’s still improving, just like my previous winner in the race Native River. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on anything else!
Rock The Kasbah, on whom I won at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago, is a possible for the Beecher Chase next weekend. He also holds an entry in the Coral Welsh Grand National, but good ground seems to be the key to him. The Aintree Grand National is his big aim for the year, so he’ll probably have just a couple of runs before them when Philip can find conditions to suit.
I also spoke to Kayley Woollacott this week about my other Cheltenham winner Lalor. She says he has come out of the race very well and is really full of himself at home, so he’s another to look forward to when he turns out next.